As for any team, playing at home is always a nice feeling. From sleeping in your own bed, to spending time with loved ones and of course, grabbing a bite to eat at your favorite place, players get that extra jolt of energy from the fans as they jog onto the field for pregame warm-ups. The fans are called the “12th man” on the field.
Cleveland faced off against the rebuilding Houston Texans and early on it was all about the defense as both sides were unable to push across the goal line. It was especially surprising as Houston no longer has defensive ends J.J. Watt or Jadeveon Clowney. Early on, Cleveland would take command of the game on a short punt by Jamie Gillian that was muffled by a Texan player and recovered by Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki. The end result was a touchdown run by fullback Andy Janovich. The very next drive, journeyman quarterback Tyrod Taylor hooked up with rookie WR Nico Collins on a long gain via the slant route. The Cleveland defense seemed totally lost on that drive. Taylor lobbed a screen pass to running back Phillip Lindsay, who ran it in for a touchdown.
It seemed as if this might have turned out to be a trap game for the Browns. The offensive line of the Browns was not giving Baker much time for him to get settled and make his check downs. Instead, he had to settle for short passes that did not result in many yards. Head coach Kevin Stefanski had to get creative and call for a flea flicker and play-action passes on one drive. It seemed that the Browns offense was like a “truck stuck in mud.” No matter how hard they tried to get the ball moving, they were unable to go far. At the half, both teams were deadlocked at seven points.
In the second half, Cleveland had to utilize other weapons to gain the upper hand. They targeted tight end Austin Hooper, and running back Kareem Hunt. During that particular drive, Cleveland fans held their breath when they saw Baker Mayfield laying down on the ground in discomfort. After throwing an interception, he attempted to make a tackle.
The Browns defense looked dumbfounded as Taylor rushed for a touchdown without having even been touched. Down by seven, Cleveland went with what their identity is, which is pounding the football with Nick Chubb. He energized the fans as on a second and five he was handed the ball, shifted to his right and then ran up the middle and bounced off defenders like a pinball machine and registered a first down. Baker Mayfield pump faked to his right and rushed into the end zone to tie the game up at 14 a piece. This drive was smooth as the offensive line made the adjustments from the first half. At that point, the offense was rolling as on a second and 19, Mayfield zipped a short pass to running back Demetric Felton, who turned the play into a 33-yard touchdown pass.
The Browns defense picked up their game as linebacker Malcolm Smith made an excellent diving catch to pick off quarterback Davis Mills. The defense did have a mishap. On one drive in the fourth quarter, they committed a holding and pass interference penalty on the same exact play. This resulted in a quick touchdown pass from Mills to Cooks, who looked like Superman flying in the end zone after being hit hard trying to hold on to to ball and complete the play. A combination of Mayfield’s mobility and Felton being utilized as a receiver allowed the Browns to march down the field. Chubb continued to exert his dominance,as he gained a first down and shortly after breezing for a 26-yard touchdown run past the Houston defense like a Ferrari cruising down the highway. Chubb had his fingerprints all over this game, having rushed for 95 yards on 11 carries and averaged 8.6 yards per carry. The touchdown was the icing on the cake as Cleveland won 31-21.
The Browns are happy to finally get their first win of the season, but they have to address their defense. In this early season, the defense has surrendered a combined 54 points and allowed 699 total offensive yards. In the postgame press conference, Kevin Stefanski stated “It was not a clean game, but the team stepped up”. At the end of the day, there are always takeaways from the game and every team has something to improve upon. A win is a win no matter the score. Teams will celebrate and enjoy it for a few hours and then prep for their next opponent.
Athletes have to have a short memory.
Baker Mayfield knows he needs to be better to take his team to the next level. Next on the slate is a matchup against the Chicago Bears at First Energy Stadium.